If I were to put myself in the shoes of a new Fellow, my first interaction or conversation would be to congratulate them on arriving at their destination surviving incredible the journey. The Bush process began for me when I originally applied for the fellowship program in 2015. I had not been aware of the program until I met with a former colleague who I met with over coffee to discuss my future career plans for the work I had been doing for almost 25 years. She had started her own consulting business and at that time, I felt completely at a crossroads in my career. I needed to know my next steps in continuing my purposeful path focusing on fathers, but unsure where to go or what to do. My hope was to gain insight, guidance, and direction as I began to think of developing my own consulting business from all I had learned in the field of family support focusing on fathers, children, and families in my professional and my lived experiences a former teen father growing up in an absent father household. However, I came away from our meeting with valuable information as I look back that became a crystalizing or “Aha” moment for me. She introduced me to the Bush Fellowship Program. I became intrigued with the program as I hadn’t focused on my own leadership development my entire career as I wasn’t sure what leadership development even meant as I explored the fellowship program. Previously, my employer had discussed briefly during my annual review of my future professional goals. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure what they were, studied leadership development/plan, and never pursued any opportunities until I applied. The deadline to apply for the 2015 application had expired so decided to apply in 2016 then again in 2017, and I was denied both times. I did not make it pass the initial application submission after two attempts.
I was devasted but I was determined to accomplish the goals in my applications as I now for the first time had a leadership development plan. I was able to accomplish my goal of completing my undergraduate degree with honors in 2019 (after a 30-year journey) and a few other public policy educational goals that had been in my first two applications. I decided not to apply in 2018 due the I had been denied two previous times and didn’t think I was what they were looking for to receive such a prestigious award. However, in the summer of 2019, I decided that I wanted to give it one more try as my confidence had begun to build both educationally and professionally as I was getting closer to completing my undergraduate degree at Metro State University in the fall of 2019 and had met a number of incredible professionals, instructors, students and now colleagues since I decided to return to school full-time just a few years earlier after not receiving the fellowship. Learning about myself through the entire process that began with my original conversation with my colleague at the coffee shop, hours and hours of writing for all three applications, taking multiple college courses, and completing my degree, prepared me to have a vision of where I wanted to take my leadership. I was fortunate to be blessed to have been selected as a 2020 Bush Fellow during a time of uncertainty in our world.
The recent reinforcement of the racial disparities challenges in Minnesota after the murder of George Floyd in my neighborhood along with badly damaging my business during the civil unrest has only helped build upon my vision not only for my leadership development but as I wrote in my application, my goal to contribute to systems change for black men, fathers, and children. Also, after recently completing my first semester at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs MPA program with honors, I can truly say my entire experience and what I have learned through this entire process is, “It’s not about my final destination” but more importantly, the journey in becoming an authentic, impactful, motivational, and transformational leader I truly hope to be. It has been an incredible journey thus far.